I think that I can safely say that was the dullest, boring game of football that I’ve watched in a very long time.
I’m struggling to think of a game that has seen me so thoroughly bored by my team and that’s including all of last season too.
If you’d asked me before kick off if I would be happy with a 2-0 win, I would, of course, have answered “Yes” and in the context of the season so far, we have certainly played a lot better and lost. Having said all that, we played badly and still won the game and that, I guess, is all that matters, isn’t it?
When I saw the team announced at 6.45pm, I was quite happy to see that Ivo Pinto was at right back and that Ben Marshall was going to play in a more familiar role to him on the right wing. Round pegs in round holes and all that.
Alex Neil’s Preston North End have had a half-decent start to the season and considering that defending wasn’t his forte while managing tactics at Carrow Road, he now oversees a remarkably resilient team of footballers at Deepdale. Norwich have already played a lot better than this and lost and Preston will be one of those Championship teams that are capable of beating anyone on any given day, so I suppose we need to look at the result and take it for what it was.
As has become the norm for Daniel Farke’s Norwich City, the ball was endlessly played side to side in an attempt to open up some space for a forward move but the same old problem was at the heart of things. It was all done too slowly. Preston were organised and strong but without any real threats other than Callum Robinson. Lewis Moult and Lukas Nmecha were largely of little threat to Klose and Hanley although Moult registered the first shot on target of the game with an overhead kick that Tim Krul easily held.
At the other end, Onel Hernandez was the spark for Norwich with his best moments being created by slide rule passes from Moritz Leitner. The best chance was played back to Leitner who fired over from the edge of the Preston area – I’m starting to think that finishing is not Mo’s best attribute.
Halftime came as a blessed relief from the turgid offerings on the pitch and my lad actually said to me “This is so boring, it’s just too slow.” He’s twelve years old and has seen enough football to know what’s good and what isn’t. This clearly is not good football.
Krul had to save sharply from Moult’s header just after the break and it was clear now that the visitors were having the best of the chances. By this point, Declan Rudd hadn’t had a save to make, which is not good enough.
Alex Tettey is best described as a stalwart of the Canary squad having just completed six years in yellow and green but by his own admission, last night was his worst ever game for the club. His distribution was awful and he seemed to be wearing boots shaped like 50 pence pieces. The ball just bounced off him, he gave it away endlessly and his headers went astray – he was having a nightmare. The crowd were growing restless and when Alex gave the ball away for the umpteenth time in the middle of the park, allowing the always dangerous Robinson to surge forward and crash a shot off Tim Krul’s crossbar, there was audible booing from the home fans.
Rarely do you hear a Norwich player booed by his own fans in the middle of a game but that was where we were at last night.
To his credit, Tettey’s head never dropped and he kept trying and I’m now about to do something unusual, I’m going to give Daniel Farke some tactical credit.
On 74 minutes, Farke replaced Pinto with Zimmermann and went 3-5-2. Coupled with the earlier arrival of Emi Buendia, the Coach was clearly going for it and it worked.
An excellent long ball from Zimmermann found Lewis and his run before holding up the ball, allowed him to play in Teemu Pukki who scored low into the far corner with a left footed shot. It was a scarcely deserved opener and was followed seven minutes later by a 20 yard half volley from Tettey that gave Declan Rudd no chance.
The sense of relief around the ground was obvious. Tettey pulled his shirt off and ran to the bench to celebrate. Yes, he’d had a terrible game but he stuck at it and scored a bit of a worldie. Naturally, he was booked for the celebration.
Farke’s Plan A was nowhere near working but his Plan B did. Fair play.
A few observations – Leitner was at the heart of some of the best and the worst City moments. I like that he is always on the move and always wants the ball but plenty of times he could’ve turned and moved the ball forwards instead of backwards. It was frustrating both me and the crowd in general but he showed his class with some of those passes he played to Hernandez in the first half.
Ben Marshall looks like he missed his big chance as a winger. He didn’t affect the game at all and was largely anonymous. His corners weren’t great and he just didn’t do enough for me. Teemu Pukki scored the opener but again, was fairly anonymous in that awful 75 minute period before the formation change.
I’ve already mentioned Tettey and won’t labour that point again. I thought that Jordan Rhodes did a job for his teammates. He held the ball up and won numerous free kicks to get us up the field, despite having zero service all night.
Leeds are up next, topping the table and they are clearly now serious promotion candidates. One thing I do know is that we will have to play a heck of a lot better than we did against Preston to compete with them this weekend. The ball and it’s use need to be way quicker than it was here and maybe Emi Buendia can help with that in the upcoming games. He looks tidy in possession, has a few tricks in his locker and also likes a tackle.
This was my first live game of the season. I missed the first couple having been on holiday and my assessment is that it doesn’t look as though a huge amount has changed. The ball is still being moved around too slowly, although I understand it was better at home against WBA. Still, I suppose a win is a win, no matter how you get it and the points were welcome.
Onwards and upwards, although surely our team can’t play this badly again and win.